There’s been a lot of lively debate about the right way for the Edmonton Oilers to go about pulling off a proper rebuild, and the opinions are as diverse as the people you talk to — except when it comes to the players.
Fans, media and fartcatchers alike have different takes on the best way to go about the business of setting the Oilers straight after four years out of the playoffs. There’s the "You’ve got to stink to high heaven and be a lottery team" crowd. Some people talk about "The "Chicago model" and the "Pittsburgh model," like those teams somehow mastered the art of losing as opposed to getting lucky and blah, blah, blah.
Then, there’s the Oilersnation derivation of "Exciting Last Place Hockey." It’s a bit of fudging where fans get the best of both worlds — a competitive team that comes up just short most nights and slides into the lottery with a combined 59 overtime and shootout losses.
It all makes for interesting fodder on websites like this one, but there’s not a helluva lot of debate about the merits of such things like losing or finishing 19th as opposed to 27th as part of a rebuilding plan within the walls of the Oilers dressing room.
Another Taylor Hall on the way in 2011? What does the Taylor Hall the Oilers have now think about the concept?
ANYTHING EXCITING ABOUT LAST PLACE?
A bunch of us talked to Hall, Edmonton’s reward for finishing 30th last season, this morning and we asked him about what he sees as the best route to a "proper rebuild."
"If we could get really close," Hall said, talking about the possibility of the Oilers finishing in the playoffs, "if we could have a really good stretch just like we’ve been doing, that would be a great opportunity for us.
"We all want to win. Losing sucks. The guys in here who did it last year, they don’t want to do it again. Nobody does, and Tom (Renney) isn’t going to let that happen. That’s pretty much our reasoning in here."
Players want to win. That’s not stop-the presses stuff (although I’m often surprised by how many fans actually believe players set out to lose when they take the ice as part of a master plan).
Hall obviously understands the potential merits of teams playing like ripe Limburger cheese for seasons on end. He’s a prime example, after all. He sees more value in success, even limited success, as part of the learning curve, like making the playoffs — even if it’s one-and-done in the first round — which doesn’t jibe with being a lottery team.
GETTNG A TASTE
"You see teams that are young and just squeak into the playoffs," Hall said. "What they do next year, you look at their records, they do a lot better just because they get a taste for it.
"They know what it’s like early in their careers. It just gives them a little bit of a head-start. Like I said, that’s what we’re thinking in here. We’re not thinking about a rebuild. We want to be as good as we can as quick as we can."
I guess it depends on what your definition of "as quick as we can" is. Do the Oilers have enough young talent on the roster and in the system now to contend next season or the season after without a lottery pick in the next two summers, assuming they fill some obvious holes via free agency or trades?
Do fans who support the slow-and-steady mode have the patience to see this team out of the playoffs for six or seven straight years? If the Oilers are within hailing distance, say, six or eight points, of a playoff spot at the deadline, will you clamour for a trade or two to get the team over the hump this spring?
Is there really a tried-and-true timeline for a rebuild, or is it a moving target based on personnel and the development pace, or lack of same, of young prospects like Hall?
Is there really a model or template?
WHILE I’M AT IT
— So, we’ll finally see what all the fuss, including a petition, over the Oilers adding some jiggle to their game night presentation was about against the Maple Leafs Tuesday. The cheer team, made up of 19 young women aged 18-29, will strut its stuff live at Rexall Place after six weeks of tryouts and workouts. Will we hear anything more from Lisi Monro, the oh-so-concerned young lady who started the petition? Any placards (fat chance they’ll get past the gate) or protests tonight? A show of flannel, perhaps?
— If you wanted a glimpse of the yesterday’s news mentality in the sports journalism business, it was on display in the dressing room today. While everybody with a microphone or a notepad was swarming players with questions about the hideous third periods in the last two games, Linus Omark sat quietly in his stall without anybody near him. Quite a contrast considering Omark was the flavour of the day after Friday’s shootout spin-o-rama against Tampa Bay. Then again, the fact the Swede is a brutal interview might have something to do with it.
— Expect to see tough guys Steve MacIntyre and Zack Stortini back in the line-up against the Maple Leafs.
— If Jim Vandermeer can’t play because of the ankle injury he sustained in the first period against Vancouver, and it’s unlikely he’ll be ready to go, expect Renney to dust off Jason Strudwick and put him in.
— By the way, the petition started by Monro had 1,509 signatures on it when it was presented to team president Patrick LaForge. I wonder how many of those people are season ticket holders?
— Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.